With X-ray-vision, empathy, and vivacity under fire, DeWoskin once again finds literary gold in painful circumstances.

BANSHEE

A breast cancer diagnosis kicks off a feral midlife crisis for a mild-mannered poetry professor.

Samantha Baxter, 42, has a great husband and daughter in college, a successfully published volume of poetry, a good job teaching in a college town. She also has breast cancer and is scheduled for a double mastectomy in three weeks. Almost immediately, she finds herself in a bathtub caressing the soapy hip of one of her students, a redhead named Leah, a girl about her daughter’s age. “My life dissolved like an old-fashioned slide show catching fire,” she explains. “I just got sick and wanted to burn the world down.” For the nearly 300 pages of DeWoskin’s (Someday We Will Fly, 2019, etc.) impassioned rant of a novel, the inside of Samantha’s head rages like an inferno. After the stress of conducting the poetry workshop in which her new lover is a student, she wants “to hide inside Elizabeth Bishop’s letters, to stop my mind from thinking its own language and instead live in hers,” but instead she pitches herself into the affair with willfully self-destructive and self-indulgent intensity. Her kind husband, her beloved daughter, and her mother, a breast cancer survivor, watch helplessly from the sidelines. “If anyone thinks her tenancy in the land of the sane and healthy was reliable, she should probably think again, because our bodies and minds have a million shards and parts, so many in contradiction with each other that we cannot count on ourselves not to revolt against ourselves.” The narration of this book is so engaging and powerful and the confusion and despair Samantha experiences so visceral and terrifying, reading it feels like being dragged along by the hand by one’s braver best friend through a scary fun house. Surely she can get us out of here, you think, but you can’t be sure.

With X-ray-vision, empathy, and vivacity under fire, DeWoskin once again finds literary gold in painful circumstances.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-94834-010-6

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Dottir Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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